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Originally published April 3 2006

Antibacterial pencils: Toxic, useless and hazardous to public health

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

I think this antibacterial products sham has gone way too far. Yesterday I was shopping at Office Depot, and guess what I found? Antibacterial pencils. Yes, it's true. I found some mechanical pencils made by PaperMate that have an antibacterial coating. Isn't this fascinating?

We've seen antibacterial hand soaps and dish soaps, shampoos and all sorts of other personal care and cleaning products. And we've seen all the bad news about this, as well, including the fact that they are completely and utterly useless at actually protecting people from germs, viruses or contagious disease. These chemicals basically create superbugs in your own kitchen. They actually encourage the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and they do nothing to make you healthier because we don't live in a sanitary environment in the first place.

We live with bacteria all around us. In fact, your immune system needs to be stimulated by some exposure to bacteria in order to be healthy enough to defend you against those really aggressive ones that might make you sick. You have to have bacteria in your environment if you want to be healthy. So, the whole concept of antibacterial products is actually quite ridiculous to begin with.

We also learned that many of these antibiotic products contain toxic chemicals. What do I mean by toxic? I mean chemicals that are molecularly similar to Agent Orange -- chemicals that cause brain cancer and impair the ability of your brain and nervous system to function adequately. I mean chemicals that have to be detoxified by your liver, which means that if you touch these chemicals -- if you even get them on your skin -- your liver has to do all the hard work to render them harmless. So, not only are you doing nothing to protect yourself against all those dangerous bacteria, you are actually harming your health by exposing yourself to these dangerous toxic chemicals.

Antibiotic pencils protect pencils from disease, not people

We know that antibacterial chemicals are not only worse than useless in an everyday environment; they are actually harmful to human health. Now, of course, they have a place in a hospital setting -- in emergency rooms or burn wards, for example -- although there are much better alternatives, such as colloidal silver. Colloidal silver is a broad-spectrum antibiotic with none of the toxic side effects of these antibacterial chemicals. I can certainly see some justification for using these types of chemicals in emergency rooms or burn wards, but they have no place whatsoever in the household, and they have no place on pencils.

So when I saw these pencils, I asked myself, "What is the marketing angle here? What is PaperMate trying to do with this? Is it implying that people catch diseases by using their own pencils?" If that's the message, I'm not sure that it carries a lot of weight. Is using your own pencil a danger to your health? Are people catching AIDS from sharing pencils?

What is PaperMate trying to claim here? What's the message to the consumer? The label to this product really says nothing that helps me figure out what the company is trying to claim. It just says: "Flex-Grip Elite with antibacterial pencil protection." Well, it's pencil protection, so it's protecting the pencil, right? So, I look on the back of this package, and I read the fine print, and here's what it says: "The antibacterial additive is EPA registered."

Oh, that makes me feel really safe -- EPA-registered technology. The EPA is the same department that was recently involved in pesticide experiments on children. It's an EPA-registered antibacterial technology, designed to protect the pencil's surface but not the skin. The package is telling me this antibacterial product is designed to protect the pencil. Is the pencil at risk of contagious disease?

I'm really worried about all the pencils I have in my drawer at home. I think that they could contract bird flu any day now. They might just keel over dead, and I can never use those pencils again. And every winter all my pens get the flu and start coughing up ink. What am I supposed to do about that? How can I write with sick pens?

Do we really have a problem in this country with our pencils getting sick? Do we really have an infectious disease epidemic with writing instruments? Remember, this PaperMate package says that it's not designed to protect you or your skin; it's designed to protect the pencil.

Just imagine how gullible somebody has to be to believe this stuff and keep buying these. I only bought them because I wanted to do this review. I'm not sure what to do with these now, because I certainly don't want to open the package and actually touch the pencils. And I certainly don't need a pencil that is, itself, immune to colds, viruses and the flu. So I'm not sure what to do with these. I don't want to donate them to some school, because I wouldn't want children to touch this chemical. I wouldn't want to just throw them away, either, because I am concerned about the environmental impact of that chemical. I'll have to take these back and get a refund.

Useless products for uninformed consumers

Consider what's really happening here with these antibacterial chemicals. This is a sales and marketing gimmick, designed to give consumers a flashy label that sounds really great but has no medical justification whatsoever. It's just flashy marketing targeted at uninformed people who are gullible enough to buy this product, thinking it's going to protect them from getting sick.

We've seen the same type of thing in facial tissues. I've seen facial tissues that say they have a chemical that protects them against 99.9 percent of all viruses and bacteria. Fantastic! So, the facial tissues won't get sick, either. How does that help a consumer? It doesn't. It's just a marketing gimmick. It's just part of the insane hype of antibacterial everything.

I was hoping the antibacterial frenzy would fizzle out because we now have a hefty collection of evidence warning about the dangers of using antibacterial products. I thought that product manufacturers would eventually stop using these toxic chemicals, but instead it just seems to be expanding to all sorts of other areas, now including antibacterial pencils.

How about antibacterial cars?

I'm just wondering how far they could really go with this stuff. Maybe Ford or GM will start selling antibacterial cars. The door handles, seat covers and windows all get coated with an antibacterial chemical, along with a claim that explains, "Your car will never get the flu!"

What about antibacterial carpets? Maybe someone will start selling carpet that is laced with Agent Orange or other chemicals that kill bacteria. That'll be exciting. That way when you roll around on your carpet with your children or your pets, you will be absorbing some of that right into your skin just as if you were using antibacterial soap.

Maybe we'll have antibacterial clothes that have been soaked in that toxic chemical, and the marketers will claim your clothes won't stink, even if you do. How healthy is that going to be? Let's just wear antibacterial chemicals and then sweat and absorb all that right through our skin.

Stop using antibacterial products while your nervous system is still intact

This abuse of antibacterial chemicals is destroying people's nervous systems. These chemicals are also hazardous to use on dishes because people eat their food off of those dishes. Hasn't this thought ever crossed anybody's mind? (Of course not; antibacterial chemicals have already harmed their nervous systems.)

So just in case you're ever concerned that your pencils might catch a cold, or AIDS, or some other infectious disease, you can now buy pencils that have been coated with antibacterial chemicals. That way you can preserve their health and prevent the spread of STDs (Scribe-Transmitted Diseases).

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